It’s Hip to be Square

Hello Zensters and new readers. Today I’d like to talk a little bit about composition and more specifically, the square format. Once available only to those that shot Medium format cameras, the advent of programs such as Photoshop and Lightroom let you convert those digital images without loss of image quality.

Currently, your camera produces images in an aspect ratio of 3:2 giving you a nice rectangle image and one you’ve been accustomed to using in your composition. You’ve learned the Rule of Thirds and compose all your shots accordingly. (Of course, I am making an assumption if you are not familiar with the Rule Of Thirds, click here for a Wikipedia overview).

ratio

Things are a little bit different when you talk about composition in a 1:1, or square format. Subconsciously, we look at rectangle photos from left to right scanning the image for the subject. On a square photo we tend to look at the center and then around the image. The Rule of Thirds does not apply on 1:1 crops. Square crop lends itself to the subject being in the center of the photo.

square-iphone-photos-1
Photo courtesy of @allophile

Take advantage of geometrical shapes while you compose. Look at the photo above and Vivian Maiers photo below. Note the repetition of squares and rectangles in the photos…

vmajier-square
Vivian Maier/John Maloof Collection

…and the use of triangles in the photo below. Powerful stuff.

Untitled, May 16, 1957
Vivian Maier/John Maloof Collection

The square format works very well with black and white images because there are no colors to distract you from the subject and the geometric patterns in the photo. If you love shooting B&W, I would strongly encourage you to experiment with this format. The results can be stunning, especially when mounted and framed.

Look at some of your past work that you weren’t completely happy with. Try recomposing using the 1:1 crop, you might be pleasantly surprised and come away with a couple of more “keepers”.

Keep this in mind next time you’re out shooting. It’s a great tool to get those creative juices flowing and get you looking at familiar scenes in a different way. Get out there. Experiment. Have fun.

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